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I was walking across the street from my mother's house last night when I saw him. He was standing in front of his father's house, diagonally across from where I was, taking something out of his trunk. It had been several years since I saw him last, and many more since I looked him in the eye. I would not look at him this time, either. I put my head down and picked up my pace, trying to get out of his line of sight before he picked his head up and saw me. He would want to say hello, like the last time. He would want to make small talk about kids and school and old friends, as if nothing bad ever happened. As if all that went on didn't matter anymore.

He's not the only one I see. A few of them stayed in the neighborhood, got married, had kids, got divorced. I see them up at the school sometimes, picking up their kids. I see them in the grocery store or at Little League games and it's always the same. They talk. I nod. I avoid their eyes. I go home and cry.

I can't let those years go. I was small when it started, probably in kindergarten. If anyone ever tells you that little rhyme "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me," well tell them they are full of shit. Obviously they never had words thrown at them like weapons.

If it wasn't the words, it was the objects. Literally sticks and stones. Back in those days kids walked home from school by themselves. Even at 5. They weren't yet teaching about stranger danger. And they certainly weren't teaching about classmates being evil little bastards. The offenders would hide in the bushes, behind fences, wherever they could crouch unseen. When I walked past, they would jump out, not to scare me, but to throw things at me. And then the names would start.

This went on for many years. I learned how to spot them. I learned how to walk on the other side of the street. I learned how to convince my mother to pick me up from school. But I never learned how to use my voice. How to tell them to stop. It wasn't just the walk home from school. It was walking to to the store. Being in front of my own house. Trying to play outside. They harassed me daily, at first just two of them and then a whole crowd.

It crossed over into school eventually, and I became one of those kids. The kind with no friends and no social life except for what her mother arranged for her. Even then, those play dates were awkward and distressing. Frankly, I didn't want friends. I didn't need friends. I was happy to just go home and sit in my room and read. All I ever needed was a book. At least that's what I told myself.

As we got older, past the point where you could chalk off the behavior to kids being kids, the teasing and name calling persisted. But I was partly to blame at this point. I let it happen. I took it. I actually hung out with them after school and stood there while the belittled me and I convinced myself that I was part of the gang and this is how they all treated each other.

Sometimes, out of desparation to be included or to be liked or to feel wanted, you do things that you probably shouldn't. And those things are taken advantage of. You try to prove your worth, to prove you belong, and you do it in ways that only serve to cheapen yourself. But you don't realize it at the time.

These things went on for years, until I finally left the school system and moved on to private school and turned my back on those people and that life.

And now, all these years later, I wonder. I see these people around town and I wonder. Do they remember all of this? Do they know what they did to me? Do they have any idea of the effect that their words and actions had on me then and how they would effect me for the rest of my life?

I mean, here it is, almost 25 years from the last time I hung out with them, and I still can't get over it. I still can't look at them. What do they see when they look at me and try to make that small talk? Do they see the same person they heaped abuse on when we were little? Do they think at all about those days? I doubt it. I doubt that if I ever brought it up with any one of them that they gave it any thought in the past 25 years. Because it didn't effect them. They went on with their lives and they forgot about me and those days and the rocks and the names and the things that went on in Jimmy's backyard.

I want to tell them. I want them to know that even today, their words are with me. That everything they did back then is still with me, in my fears and my self-esteem issues and the way I view men, and myself on a whole. I bet they don't know that. Because they think they were just being kids. They didn't know they were setting the course for my entire life.

I'll continue to see them around town and I'll continue to avoid them in my day to day life, even though they continue to be part of my nightmares and part of my psyche. There's really no escaping your past. I'd like to say I'm over the things that happened so long ago. But I'm not and I never will be and I don't know if it would make me feel any better to know that they have some guilt over what they did or that they do think about it and feel badly about it and that it stayed with them as much as it stayed with me. It probably would only make me feel worse.

So this is me trying to purge myself of all of this. It's the first time I've written about it, even if the words are very vague and scattered. I'm trying to let it go. Maybe this is the beginning of doing that.


Michelle: I feel your hurt. I also had a difficult childhood, so know something of what you must have been thro'. BUT, you HAVE overcome this and you show up as a wonderful mother & person.

Hugs & .. more & more Hugs.


You too?

Remember, babe: everything that has happened to you has made you who you are now. You wouldn't be the Michele that we're all so crazy about without them, without the way you had to change and grow to survive them.
Maybe we'll send them a fruit basket, eh?

"Thanks for for being an asshole so Michele could learn to be better than you. Enjoy the bananas!"

Wow. I know your pain, all too well. Only I was lucky - I moved when I was 15, from Illinois to Texas. And before that, the move from a small school up to a larger high school helped a little, some of the kids who tortured me from 2nd-8th grade became civilized, some even became my friends. But moving was even better - I don't have to worry about seeing them. Ever.

Irony though? Just last night, something made me think of one of them, one of the worst ones. The super cool guy that everyone adored, and who seemed to hate me more then the rest of them but led them all down the "terrorize Christine" path. I wondered where he was, and if he ever realized how much he hurt me. And now to read this this morning. I almost feel like you crawled in my mind and wrote out my feelings...

Exact same thing happened to me. Maybe we should all form some little support group, eh?

I did confront my people, though. On separate occasions I saw three people and into the conversation I slipped in how evil they were to me way back then. They said they "seriously" didn't remember being so mean and they apologized. Same thing, all three of them. I don't know if they really didn't remember, but they seemed sincere so that's all I needed to let it go.

Then I realized how much I have in my life now and how all that stuff made me brave and able to deal with difficult people. I won't say it was worth it, but I will say they can all kiss my...well, you know.

What you wrote was uncanny - took me right back 40 years to where I used to live. Brilliant writing - but I hate to think of you going through that. Have you thought of putting them on your "when I get rabies you're the first one I'll bite" list?

what a striking account of such painful memories. you are blessed with such eloquence.

No, they remember. When they're making small talk with you, they're trying to assure themselves that you turned out ok despite them. They're half expecting you to bring it up, but when you don't, they think that you've forgotten and that they don't have to feel badly about it.

Or maybe I'm giving them too much credit.

Good that you confess. Now say your hail maries and as Father Yardsale passes the donation plate, do give generously ;)

Oh, I was that same kid. Always had my head in a book, no friends, everyone teased me. I remember being slapped on the playground, shoved to the ground, the relentless name calling, picked last for the dodge ball team...it really does affect you. Kids can be vicious little animals.

It was good to read this today - I don't think we should forget how awful that was. It wasn't okay, it wasn't kids just being kids, and I know it's given me more empathy for the 'outcasts' in adult life. So there. We turned out okay, didn't we? ;)

it's amazing how many of us there were...

I think it is unanimous... everyone that keeps a journal grew up the same way.

a well trained eye is a good servant. not only that, what goes around comes around - take heart they've gotten theirs somewhere along the line. methinks those that pick are scared to take on what's inside themselves. what better come uppance than [their]self doubt?

beautiful writing, as always. dollars to doughnuts they can't do that. :)

each step. small as it may be. a journal entry here. a vague mention of the past to someone close to you. these things are good. these things are progress. you are healing. you will always be healing. even when it feels like you've turned a 360 and are going in the complete opposite direction. you are still healing. and this makes me happy. happy for you. happy for me.

continue being honest. we are here for you no matter what.

I can totally relate, having grown up Black in white suburbs. These things scar for life, as is their intention: they never quite leave you - always "come up" to re-mark you in some way, with each such run-in. Moving away helps a bit - its the same jury of peers to try your inner stregnth, but in most cases, different set of faces, at least.

honey, you're here now. and you're safe. the voice that the little girl needed is loud and clear now. they can't hurt you anymore.

you're safe. more than safe. you've got a posse. retitle the links on the right to "Michelle's Posse" if you need to. the bond and protection you missed growing up is more than present now. we're here.

take care, and peace.

Thanks for sharing that with us. I'm sure it wasn't easy to write, bringing back those memories. I hope it helped you heal in some way. All the best.

Damn..you have such a way of telling things. I have been there too. I was always awkward and was constantly picked on. Had rocks thrown at me, was hit with bricks, etc. I do not know what ever I did to make those kids hate me so much. Anyway, I totally agree with Bill...Everything that has happened, has helped to shape who you are today. Hold no regrets, and smile knowing that you are the better person. You are an incredible writer, thats for sure!!

Damn..you have such a way of telling things. I have been there too. I was always awkward and was constantly picked on. Had rocks thrown at me, was hit with bricks, etc. I do not know what ever I did to make those kids hate me so much. Anyway, I totally agree with Bill...Everything that has happened, has helped to shape who you are today. Hold no regrets, and smile knowing that you are the better person. You are an incredible writer, thats for sure!! Thanks for sharing....

oops..sorry bout that.

My parents switched me into another elementary school because they were tired of me getting the shit beat out of me.

I don't know. If you could have spoken up then, it wouldn't have done anything. I tried but there was no winning.

I truly believe physical violence is the only thing that would have stopped it then, and I wasn't willing or able to do that.

I haven't gone to any of my reunions. The blonde and I are plotting going to my 25th. Fabulous, tan and in love. ::smirk::

You're very brave, Michele. This reminds of a proverb I read. I don't remember the exact words, but went something like this:

Bravery is not the tall oak standing majestically - Bravery is the sapling enduring hardships.

It amazes me how cruel we can be as children. How quickly we are to judge others by their differences. Point the finger at someone who is not quiet like us and name call. It's makes me wonder if this is something that we as children do naturally or is it something that we learn, that we pick up from our families.
Having been one of those kids who was not quiet like the others in her school, just wanted to say thanks.

kids have a total pack mentality. I remember being trapped inside a gym structure literally being poked with sticks by my fellow students.
so glad you got out of that environment; those kids, if not the adults they became, are the sort that get pleasure and feel important from causing pain.
and that's the kind of lives they'll have. small. just be glad you're on this side of the fence.

oh, yes, this brings back memories. the kind of humiliating things i kept all to myself because telling people about it just made me feel like moroe of a loser. i remember .... more details about those incidents of cruelty than anything else.

i moved away from where i grew up, but i'm on classmates.com, & one time got an email from one of those kids that used to torment & insult me. "hey, i like your website". & i answered back all cheerful & friendly, then felt icky like i was still trying to kiss up to that popular crowd.

it never goes away, but it does get easier to deal with.

take care.

How freaky it must be to live in one place your whole life. We moved every 3 or 4 years. I used to be envious of people who stayed in one place, but I guess I'm kind of happy I didn't.

Your writing never fails to get straight to the core of my emotions. While I can't say anything that will take away the pain, I can applaud you for your strength. You have grown up to have a million times the character any of them ever could... I just wish you didn't have to endure what you did to get there.

The girl who had spit her gum in my hair in the 6th grade apologized to me when we found ourselves at the same summer camp a few years later.

I think some of them do have regrets. How could they not? But some seem to think that it's acceptable because they were young and didn't know any better. I can only think their home lives must have been bad. I was never verbally abused at home, so I would never think to do that to anyone else.

It comes from somewhere, and it's quite sad.

Some definitely regret how they were. My sister was one of the playground bullies who eventually grew out of that stage and really doesn't know what she did to other kids. Three years ago, a woman in her hula halau told her that she'd known my sister when they were kids and that my sister had tortured her and she was scared to talk to her now. I think it shocked my sis. She was really upset about it - until then, she never knew just how much she had hurt someone. Kids just don't have the years on Earth to realize the long-term effects of what they're doing.

Two short stories about the mindset of kids that illustrate their lack of understanding:

The Playground - Ray Bradbury (synop here)
Charles - Shirley Jackson (link to book)

It doesn't go away easily, does it? I don't buy into the "sticks and stones" thing. My rendition is this: sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will break your heart.

I hope you're starting to heal now and that this outpouring of love and friendship on your site can somehow fill the cracks of your childhood.

Kids are unbelievably cruel. I don't think, unless it was done to them, that they have a clue how much damage and scars they inflict on people.

You're talking about it, which is a great start.

When you're ready, maybe you should go up to this person, and start talking to them. They're different now. You're different now. You'd be surprised how differently they saw it. I'm not justifying it. I'm just saying maybe it's time to face it, and put it behind you or that emotionally-crippled little girl inside of you will never heal.

A lot of people suggested that I confront my tormenters.

And I was thinking how it would play out.

There I am, at Natalie's basketball game, and next to me is the father of one of her team mate's. Yes, one of the bullies of my childhoood.

And I sit there and he makes small talk and I turn around and say to him:

So, do you remember all those times you forced me to go down on you in your garage? I was just about your daughter's age when that happened...

And then I get up and walk away.

I don't have the balls.

I'm sorry for what you had to go through at school. Similar things happened to my brother when he was in 4th and 5th grade, some older boys started to bother him on the way to and from school. I had to go with him to his classroom and pick him up in the end of the day. The teachers didn't try to do much about it. In 6th grade he changed school.
I can see how you can't confront those people, even so it could be good for you. Maybe they don't know the damage they have done, maybe if they knew they would apologise, I think that could help you, but I understand you are not ready for that. They are adults now and you are adult, but in front of them you become the little girl you once were and feel like she did. I think there are things in life one can't just put behind and forget, they won't go away, one can only learn to live with it.

Whoah! If you're talking "sexual assault" like someone forcing you to go down on them... that's a whole different thing we're talking about.

Hello, have fun with easy blogging!